This umami-filled beef dish is brightened by a secret ingredient: sansho!
Sansho (kona-zansho in Japanese) is a variety of green peppercorn with a strong citrus flavor. Taste-wise, it has an aroma comparable to yuzu or grapefruit and is sometimes likened to “lemon pepper” spice blends. Spice-wise, it is far milder than Szechuan peppercorns but produces a similar tingly sensation. Just like black pepper, sansho is usually sold either as ground pepper or as whole peppercorns. If you’re having trouble finding sansho tsukudani or whole sansho peppercorns at your local Japanese market, substitute a dash of ground sansho pepper instead!
For this sansho simmered beef recipe, you will need thinly-sliced beef. Try looking for “shabu shabu cut” or “hot pot cut” at an Asian grocery store. However, if you can’t find it, you can instead slice a block of beef by hand. The best cuts for this recipe are rib eye, sirloin, or topside steak.
For the simmering sauce, combine together sake, mirin, sugar, soy sauce, and sansho in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts to form bubbles, add in your beef and stir until cooked through. The sugars in the sauce will caramelize and become a dark brown color, coating the beef in a lightly-sweet sauce. Lastly, add in your thinly-sliced mushrooms and onions. These two ingredients are a classic pairing for beef in Japanese cuisine. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are translucent.
Serve sansho simmered beef donburi-style over a steaming bowl of rice and let the sweet and salty sauce soak through each grain of rice. The rich flavor of the succulent beef and the acidic freshness of sansho pepper make for a unique and delicious combination.
- 2 tbsp sake
- 2 tsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tspsansho tsukudani or whole sansho pepper
- 100-150g beef (thinly sliced)
- 50g shimeji mushrooms (or your favorite mushroom, thinly sliced)
- ½ onion (chopped)
- Combine the sake, mirin, sugar, soy sauce and sansho tsukudani in a pan over medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the beef. Cook and coat until the beef changes color. Add the mushrooms and onion. Once cooked, serve and enjoy.
Introduction courtesy of Britney Budiman
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.